This drawing, based upon a photograph taken by Jean de Strelecki, was created in 1917 during the Cubism era by Pablo Picasso. It depicts Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev and Alfred Seligsberg, two wealthy, well-dressed friends of Picasso who also appear in several other sketch works such as Portrait-charge: Massine, Bakst et Diaghilev which was created in the same year. This style of work shares a resemblance with Picasso's famous portrait of fellow artist, Igor Stravinsky, a popular subject of research regarding observation and artistic expression.
In this piece, Picasso uses a minimalist style to emphasize the characteristics of both Sergei and Alfred through their posing, expression and positioning. As with many of Picasso's sketch works, this piece aims to describe the smallest details of an image by capturing its essence in as few marks as possible. This idea is explored in Picasso's series of sketches created in 1907, featuring abstract and minimalist brush strokes that illustrate a variety of animals.
The interaction between the outlines and the blank space of the artwork shares a resemblance with typical magazine portraiture of the era, often taken directly from photograph and used widespread as a quick but expressive way of describing a figure or portrait in a newspaper or magazine. This style is also reminiscent of traditional Japanese artwork, such as those of the Tang Dynasty era which featured expressive line work, whilst also closely resembling the more contemporary Pop art style known for its heavy outlines and sharp, minimalist style.
Pablo Picasso accumulated a large and iconic library of sketch work and drawings, from his elegant portrayal of the female form to his lively depictions of everyday characters. Many of his most famous sketches arise from War and Peace, a collaboration of over a hundred paintings and drawings including the iconic Head of a Woman.
Other similar pieces of work by Picasso include Portrait d'Un Homme Barbu Accoude Á Une Sellette, Untitled 1936, Sebastia Junyer-Vidal Arrives To Paris and The Girls of Avignon.